It’s exam season for university students in the Maritimes, and that means long hours at the library, stress, and maybe some not so healthy food choices along the way.

The right foods could help give your brain that extra boost, increasing concentration, mood and memory.

Registered Dietician, Angela Dufour, is an instructor at Mount Saint Vincent University.

She says whether you’re marking, or writing those often daunting test, what you eat can have an impact.

“It’s all about the foods we have in the days we have leading up to those exams,” she explains.

Dufour says keeping blood glucose levels in check is important to maintaining optimal concentration and memory.

She suggests powering with protein.

“So things like our eggs, lean poultry and meats,” says Dufour, “nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and obviously our dairy.”

Nuts and seeds also contain another brain boosting nutrient, omega three.

Fatty fish is also a great source, and can fit within the student budget.

 “We can get herring in a tin,” adds Dufour. “You can get salmon again in a tin, tuna.”

Dufour says a variety of fruits and vegetables is also an important part of a pre-exam diet.

“Vitamin C helps not just improve immune function, so helping us keep healthy while our stress levels might be high, but it also can improve concentration.”

Other concentration and mood controlling nutrients are found in whole grains, like zinc, folate and magnesium.

“Magnesium’s a big one,” she says, “because that actually helps control that cortisol level, or that stress hormone and keeps it low.”

Sugar and saturated and trans fats can have the opposite effect on cortisol levels, making the stress hormone spike.

Dufour suggests avoiding these types of foods, and reaching for healthier, portion-controlled snacks during those long study sessions.

“Two cups of popcorn,” she suggests, “a great whole grain there so, good fiber, good zinc, folate, then top it with some almonds, you can even throw in some dark chocolate chips if you would like, and top it with dried fruit.”

While coffee may seem like a lifesaver, too much caffeine can lead to dehydration.

“If you’re dehydrated by one per cent of your body weight, which is only two pounds for a 60kg person, which isn’t much, can actually decrease concentration levels by five per cent.”

Food for thought, to help you make the grade.